Blair is deliberately smashing the NHS

Gate Gourmet locked-out workers winning great support from West London busworkers
Gate Gourmet locked-out workers winning great support from West London busworkers

THE just announced 1,000 strong mass sackings at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire which includes 750 compulsory redundancies, as well as 370 nurses and midwives, shows the entire NHS its future under the Blair-Brown privatisation programme. One seventh of the workforce is to go because of a government imposed £17 million debt.

Translate that scenario to the sum of hospitals throughout the NHS system and you have an idea of what is to come – tens of thousands of sackings.

Yesterday, Health Secretary Hewitt, was seeking to argue that the loss of 1,000 jobs would not affect the clinical performance at this vital NHS hospital which serves an entire county. Again, if this is true for North Staffs it is true across the NHS as a whole! She is saying that NHS mass sackings are a good thing!

However, all of the NHS trade unions, including the BMA, RCN and UNISON, are unanimous that mass sackings will tear the guts out of this vital NHS hospital, and out of the NHS as a whole.

Hewitt has also charged that the hospital had got into problems because it was carrying out more work than it could afford to do.

She means that the best way to run an NHS hospital under Blair’s health market is to keep costs down by turning patients away, or as the North Staffs hospitals chief executive, Anthony Sumara argued yesterday, by sending patients home early after operations enabling the trust to cut 150 beds, to help deal with its market produced deficit.

The plain fact however, is that the policy of the Labour government is to privatise the NHS, ruthlessly cutting it, slashing hospital provision and hospital jobs, and calling for care to be transferred into the community.

Labour took over the Private Finance Initiative from the Tories, and has greatly expanded it. The PFI has seen NHS Trusts loaded up with lease payments of tens of millions a year, for between thirty to sixty years, to the private owners of the hospitals the NHS is now using.

The new Bart’s and London Trust, built under the PFI is to open, still-born, with three floors already closed, so that it does not go bankrupt from day one of its working life.

The Labour government now hands billions of the NHS budget to private medical companies, establishing private treatment centres. These get rich via block funding paid by the NHS whether they do the work or not.

NHS hospitals however have been taken off block funding and been put on payments by results.

Every procedure carried out has a tariff and a hospital has to bill for every procedure performed, creating a situation where the more operations an NHS trust carries out, the deeper into debt it gets.

At the end of the financial year the debt is then carried onto the next year, so that a mountain of debt builds up needing savage cuts to satisfy the health market price mechanism that Blair has put in place.

Seventy five per cent of the NHS budget now goes into the Primary Care Trusts, which no longer offer services, they commission them, frequently from the private sector.

We now have an NHS system which is providing the private sector with a new lease of life, while the NHS itself is being deliberately cut and bankrupted. Defence of the NHS means, defending every job and service and halting all bed, ward and hospital closures.

Branches of the NHS trade unions must take the initiative in forming councils of action in all areas made up of all unions and political and social movements to stop local hospital and ward closures and establish workers’ control over the NHS.

The NHS trade unions must call a day of action and urge all TUC trade unions to take strike action on that day to show the government that it means business. Such action will be a dress rehearsal for a general strike to bring down the Blair government and return a workers’ government that will abolish the health market and nationalise the drugs industry to save and further develop the NHS.